In the Run-up to Paris climate negotiations: in a nutshell

The upcoming UN climate conference in Paris can become a turning point for the international climate negotiations. Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change intend to sign a new global agreement before the 21st session ends on December 11.

The upcoming UN climate conference in Paris (COP21) can become a turning point for the international climate negotiations. Parties to the UN convention on climate change intend to sign a new global agreement before the 21st session ends on December 11.

The main goal of the agreement is to strengthen global effort to combat climate change. Its main tools are the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions in order to contain global warming within 2 degrees centigrade compared to the pre-industrial level, as well as adaptation to negative effects of climate change.

As the official UNFCCC Secretariat website states, COP21 aims to achieve a universal and legally binding agreement which allows us to combat climate change more efficiently and speeds up the transition towards a society and economy that have little demand for carbon-based technologies.

The Paris agreement is due to come into full force in 2020 and replace the Kyoto protocol that was adopted back in 1997 and is currently regulating the international climate regime.

The main goal of the climate process is to take the countries’ involvement to a new level. The second goal is to consider each country’s specifics and include them in the common process. The third goal has to do with ensuring the transparency of the process.

In the run-up to COP21 in Paris, in accordance with the decisions adopted at COP19 in Warsaw and COP20 in Lima, each country has to put its pledge, which was adopted at the national level, into the public domain.

There is still a lot of talk and argument going on about COP21’s possible failure to deliver tangible results. One of the key pending problems of the negotiation process is that the total climate pledges (expressed as INDCs, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) announced to date are not enough to keep global warming within the desired limit.

Furthermore, the developed and developing countries do not seem to be able to share their responsibilities in a fair manner. Distribution of efforts between developed countries and emerging economies is yet another painful subject of the current negotiations.

However, even the toughest sceptics admit that even if the final resulting COP21 document fails to become legally binding, it will still have a certain legal value and may be implemented voluntarily on a national level – and many countries would do it.

Experts talk about the global goal of the Paris conference – the new climate agreement is predestined to establish a balance between the needs and abilities of each countries.

The financial side of the issue is also worth mentioning. The Paris conference should also help the developed countries to collect $100 billion annually, starting in 2020, partly by means of the Green Climate Fund, in order to help fight climate change.

Both experts and public see the Paris process as a way to get a political signal to redirect the flow of investment from resource-wasteful sectors towards low-carbon technology.

Public observers at the negotiations hope that despite certain restrictions for public access to negotiation rooms, civil society will keep playing an important role in the process. Active involvement of citizens and the non-governmental sector (municipalities, private enterprises, NGOs, scientists, etc.) in transitioning to new types of energy, in solving environmental issues and adapting to negative effects of climate change – is an important task for both non-governmental institutions, and for decision-makers.

A few weeks prior to the climate summit in Paris, Russian environmental NGOs presented their Position paper regarding the upcoming negotiations. It says, “We call on Russia to make maximum effort in 2016 to promptly develop the efficient international rules for the implementation of the Paris agreement and to adopt national decisions to ensure its implementation – on emissions, forests, adaptation and finance.” The NGOs also emphasize a number of other important issues that are crucial when considering ways to fight climate change. The use of nuclear technologies cannot be a solution when we try to deal with the climate issues! Priority should be given to renewable energy and energy efficiency, instead of fossils. In addition, countries should definitely adopt more ambitious emissions reduction targets, thus contributing to the global effort.